Happy Acer

On Gardeners’ Question Time (a BBC Radio 4 program) a few weeks ago, Acer Palmatums were described as highly strung, stressed plants that live on a knife-edge, having exacting requirements like:

  • Not chalky soil but not strongly acidic either
  • Moist soil but it shouldn’t be heavy clay nor free draining either
  • Bright light but not direct sun, certainly not in the mornings
  • Calm and sheltered position, protected from cold drying winds
  • Can’t withstand lots of competition from other plants
  • May need feeding but not too much otherwise leaves or roots can burn

At the last count we had three acers. One isn’t going to last very long as it’s crowded in and other plants are growing over the top of it, the second one is in a similar position but it has a bit more room so may survive. The third one is doing pretty well and has grown noticeably this year.

It may be that the conditions – cold, dull light and persistent rain – have suited it this year. I do expect some of the new growth to die back over the winter, but that will cause it to bush out more next year.

Unfortunately, this isn’t one of those acers that turn crimson red in Autumn (from what I can remember) but it is still a very elegant and pretty plant. I’d say this acer is much more relaxed than the problem acers on Gardeners’ Question Time.

5 Comments


  1. Sometimes gardeners, and other people, overstate dangers because they like to add drama to life.

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  2. That certainly looks like its boots are happy, Sunnil. We have two. A long gangly boy, purchased cheap because it had sort of bolted. Dark red leaves until it falls: the other, short and very leafy, similar shape to yours, also red leaves. label has fallen off of both, so no names….. Both are happy I think, and I have no idea at all what our soil is….. must do a test one day!

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  3. It’s so interesting to hear these trees described as fussy and hard to grow. There are so many Acer species native to the northeast US (although not Acer palmatum) that we take them for granted. I haven’t even identified all the species growing in the woods around my house

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  4. Ha, too funny! I’ve seen similar requirements said about gardenias (which is why I’m too scared to try to grow one!) I do have a Japanese maple, and it’s not done well in either of the two locations I’ve put it in. My overly hot and sunny, acidic clay yard is not really the proper location for them…

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    1. Well, acidic is good, clay can be loosened up and overly hot can be cooled by putting it under something else, shading it, but there’s only so much you can do. I seem to have found the right spot with this one, thankfully. Hot and sunny allows you to grow lots of other exciting plants anyway so given the choice I’d say you have the better deal!

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